Intellectualism, Individualism, and Wealth, Part 4 (philosophy of millennials)

Errata: yesterday’s article, Alt-Right: Classifications and Significance, described neocons as apologetically anti-populist, when it should have been unapologetically anti-populist.

Continuing on the series on Intellectualism, Individualism, and Wealth…

The Millennial Mindset, Part 2: Philosophy and Wealth describes the underlying philosophy of most millennials as rationalist and valuing of authenticity. But another label could be deontological. Millennials, particularly smart and rational ones, seem to have an ethical system predicated on rules and promoting maximum ‘goodness’, even if ‘goodness’ may be hard to quantify or may be attained by unconventional means. The Kantian categorical imperative is relevant:

Kant then argues that the consequences of an act of willing cannot be used to determine that the person has a good will; good consequences could arise by accident from an action that was motivated by a desire to cause harm to an innocent person, and bad consequences could arise from an action that was well-motivated. Instead, he claims, a person has a good will when he ‘acts out of respect for the moral law’.[12] People ‘act out of respect for the moral law’ when they act in some way because they have a duty to do so. So, the only thing that is truly good in itself is a good will, and a good will is only good when the willer chooses to do something because it is that person’s duty, i.e. out of “respect” for the law. He defines respect as “the concept of a worth which thwarts my self-love.”[13]

As evidence of the importance of deontology, a Reddit ‘Life Pro Tips’ post which meticulously gives a list of rules for disposing of the possessions of the deceased, went viral and got a lot up-votes and comments. This is in contrast to boomers, in the 60′s, who eschewed rules and promoted ‘rebellion’ (even though they were conformist in their need to rebel). That’s probably why millennials don’t go to clubs, preferring instead to stay at home and be introspective.

This is also related to consequentialism and utilitarianism, discussed numerous times on this blog and at the end of part 3. The philosophy can also be described as quasi-authoritarian and somewhat bureaucratic, but with contradictions such as promoting individualism and authenticity. To reconcile this, individualism and authenticity is championed provided it’s within the sphere of one’s biological capabilities (also related to the meritocracy stratified by IQ), and to try to exit the sphere puts one at risk of becoming a poseur, which is among the worst things to be in a culture and society that values authenticity more than ever.

But we’re also seeing the rise of ‘advice culture’ – a subset of ‘intellectualism culture’ (as categorized here, and will be described in greater detail in upcoming installments of this series). Like the story on ‘coping with being average’, as mentioned at the end of part 2, articles that offer advice on navigating today’s difficult, hyper-meritocratic economy and culture, frequently go viral. Boomers, like the iconoclasts of the Protestant Reformation, wanted to tear down the system; millennials, on the other hand, seek to adapt, either by emulating the rich and successful or by finding ways of coping with mediocrity. Even in the 90′s, for gen-x, it as about The Matrix cyber punk rebellion and escapism though alt music, MTV, and sitcoms. But millennials want to stay in the present, to confront reality head-on, and seek complications through philosophy and inquiry (intellectualism) into things like economics and social dynamics – not the simplicity of blissful ignorance. Writers like David Foster Wallace and Hunter S. Thomson (who committed suicide within three years of each other), exude authenticity and have seen their legacies explode in recent years, becoming cultural icons. Wallace’s This is Water, a commencement speech he wrote in 2005, and Hunter’s Finding Your Purpose, a letter addressed to a fan, have been shared innumerate times and cover themes about coping with the idiosyncrasies and travails of modern society without losing one’s sanity, as well as existentialism and finding meaning in life.

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